The Jaguar XJ220 - when will it be appreciated?
By Dr Vincent van der Vinne, author of ‘Investing in Cars.’
The 1980s are characterized by economic stagnation, followed by recovery and then strong growth in the economy, with the stock exchange tripling in that decade. From the mid-1980s, money was spent like flowing water. As a result, the prices of classic cars rose rapidly. But car enthusiasts also started to gain interest in new supercars. Potential customers were clambering over each other to be able to buy such a car. Porsche presented the 959 in 1983, followed by Ferrari in 1987 with the F40. Bugatti was revived and Jaguar announced the XJ220.
To put the brand in the spotlight once again, the leadership of Jaguar wanted to develop a supercar. The British wanted to compete with the Germans and the Italians, so in 1988 Jaguar presented a concept car at the British International Motor Show in Birmingham. It was a model fitted with a twelve cylinder engine with a capacity of 6.2 litre and four wheel drive. Even today, the organic alloy coachwork stills looks surprisingly modern.
In the previous years, rare classic cars – in particular those produced by Ferrari and Bugatti – had risen sharply in price. This led to some people opting to invest in new limited production sports cars with the expectation that these, just like the classic sports cars, would become more valuable after their acquisition. Jaguar announced in advance that a limited number of the new supercar would be manufactured, further fueling speculation. A year later, the factory announced that in the UK the price of the car would be £360,000 (more than the Ferrari F40 and the Porsche 959 from a few years before). Jaguar would make at least 220 and at most 350 cars.
The Jaguar XJ220 was revealed in 1991 at the Tokyo Motor Show. The car resembled the earlier concept car, but was technically modified. At the same time Jaguar had increased the car’s price to £410,000. In addition, the factory had announced a new supercar that was even more expensive, the Jaguar XJR-15. All this affected the demand but equally important was that the economic environment had changed. The new Jaguar appeared too late to the market.
The Japanese economy stagnated in 1990, followed a year later by those in other Western countries such as the United States, the UK and Germany. In the course of 1990, the market for classic and modern sports cars went into decline. And even before the Jaguars were delivered to their owners, a number of buyers could no longer meet their obligations or wanted to cancel the purchase. In November 1990 (before the cars were delivered), several vehicles were offered for sale by private consumers. The declining interest for the XJ220 had consequences for the factory and buyers. Instead of the intended maximum of 350 cars, only 281 were eventually manufactured. The expectations for the price evolution were far too optimistic and those who had bought the car as an investment were disappointed. Years later, cars that had hardly been driven at all were offered at auction for relatively low amounts.
Afterwards, the layout of the Jaguar XJ220 was criticized (even the sound of the engine were panned). Instead of the twelve cylinder engine, the XJ220 had a six cylinder engine, and plans for four wheel drive were eventually cancelled. But on the other hand, the V6 developed 542, against the V12’s 500hp. The engine’s power was greater than that of the six cylinder Porsche 959 and the eight cylinder Ferrari F40. These cars had an output of 450hp and 487hp respectively. The Jaguar XJ220 was also the fastest production car in the world: It reached 217 mph, versus the Ferrari’s 199 mph and the Porsche’s 195 mph top speeds. The engine of the XJ220 was derived from a race engine designed by Cosworth for the 1986 MG Metro 6R4 Group B Rally car. The Jaguar proved it was fast and also reliable during the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1993, where one of the three participating cars finished first in the new GT class… however, the car was later disqualified for failing to run with catalytic converters.
The Jaguar was expensive and offered a lot of quality and comfort, equipped with a luxurious leather interior. It also had standard air conditioning and electric windows. Nevertheless, due to circumstances, the image of the car was damaged. While the Porsche 959 and the Ferrari F40 were later appreciated by enthusiasts and increased in value after the year 2000, the value of the XJ220 saw little movement upwards.
A factor – in addition to the availability of tyres – that played a role is that both the Porsche 959 and the Ferrari F40 had sold very well. Ferrari even sold more than originally intended. In addition, both brands later introduced new, appealing (and costly) models, whereby they retained the attention of enthusiasts and collectors. Porsche developed faster (and more expensive) versions of the 911 Type 993, such as the Turbo S and the GT2, and later the Carrera GT and the 918 Spyder. The Ferrari F40 was followed up by equally exclusive models, such as the F50, the Enzo and the LaFerrari. By contrast, Jaguar remained silent. The last supercar of the British factory was sold not only in less numbers than expected, it also had no real successors, resulting in little appreciation for the XJ220 compared with its peers.
Starting from the year 2000 up to and including 2014, the prices achieved for the XJ220 at auctions was weak. Around 2000, the highest amount paid at auction was approximately £120,000. In 2014, RM Sotheby’s auctioned one for £165,000. Until that point, this was the highest price achieved at auction – not including the XJ220 that had belonged to Sir Elton John, which was auctioned by Christie’s in May 2001 for nearly £235,000. In 2015, Bonhams sold one at auction for £323,700, the highest result so far.
The price development of the Jaguar stand in contrast with those of the Porsche 959 and the Ferrari F40. Both models received the interest of enthusiasts far sooner and also increased more in value. The highest auction result for both cars rose from approximately £210,000 in 2002 to £1.1 million in 2015. The difference in value between the XJ220 on the one hand, and the Porsche 959 and the Ferrari F40 on the other hand, increased over the years.
But let’s appreciate the Jaguar on the basis of the performance and production numbers. On those factors, it turns out the Jaguar outperformed the Porsche and Ferrari. The Jaguar is also a rarer beast, with just 281 cars produced. Porsche made 337 cars, including 37 prototypes and pre-production models. Ferrari made no less than 1,311 cars. Seen from this perspective, it seems the supercar made by Jaguar is under-appreciated. The current gap in the price between the XJ220 and the Porsche 959 and Ferrari F40 seems, as a result, too large.
Price new in 1992 and highest results per year – Jaguar XJ220
1992 Jaguar XJ220, auctioned by Bonhams at 4 February 2016 for € 299,000 (£229,800), photo Bonhams
Highest auction results per year – Porsche 959
1988 Porsche 959, auctioned by RM Sotheby’s at 27 April 2013 for $770,000 (£497,000), photo Darin Schnabel, RM Sotheby’s
Highest auction results per year – Ferrari F40
1991 Ferrari F40, auctioned by Bonhams at 13 September 2014 for £ 634,300, photo Bonhams
The Industry view
Richard Hawken, Portfolio Manager, WMG Collectable Car Fund
To me the XJ220 was Britain’s very successful attempt at making a supercar to compete with the likes of Ferrari (F40) Lamorghini (Diablo) and Porsche (959), so it’s a bit of a polaroid snap from a past period… in fact 25 years ago this year. The F40 and particularly Porsche aesthetically show their age parked against much bigger, mightier machines of today, but the XJ220 on launch in 1992 was already well ahead of the curve in design and engineering, thanks largely to the expertise gained from F1 and Touring Car specialists Tom Walkinshaw Racing – responsible for much of the design of the XJ220. Given its 16ft long and 7ft3” wide girth, it doesn’t look out of place parked next to a LaFerrari or an Aventador, both sizeable automobiles. Cars have all grown in size over the last few years. The car was designed during the Thatcher-led boom period of the late 1980’s, so budgets weren’t too much of a problem back then, but by the time the car started to be delivered some four years later, the economic environment had changed somewhat.
I remember (I was at school) reading Car magazine with the headline “this may be the last 200mph monster to come from a major car maker”, which was kind of sad being a petrol-head as we’d hoped this was a step into a new world of 200mph hyper-cars; of course, as it turned out, it was. I also recall the controversy surrounding the switch from V12 AWD to V6 twin-turbo RWD. Despite most observers incorrectly thinking this was macro-economically linked, in fact it was emissions and power to weight that finally saw the demise of the V12 and 4 wheel drive originally conceived in December 1984. The normally aspirated V12 could only deliver 500bhp given the new 1992 emission requirements, plus the prototype V12 was apparently around 300kg heavier standing little or no chance of making the targeted 220mph. For the me though, the XJ220 was the centrepiece of my room at boarding school along with smaller pictures of an F40, and the almost equally fast Bugatti EB110. So it’s the subliminal psychological link to the XJ220 being the last thing I saw at night and the first thing I saw in the morning that has etched its place in my heart for so long. It’s a love affair that will stay with me.
Every car has its challenges of ownership, even the basic ones. The XJ220 is more akin to racing technologies than road – built by TWR remember – so whilst you don’t need an F1 style team of pit mechanics, you do need people who know their away around these cars. There is no spare wheel for instance, firstly as there’d be no room for a rear 345/35/18, and secondly given the race car centre-lock wheel nuts, the bar needed to unlock them would need to be longer than the car itself. Other than that and the odd suspension set up, it’s fairly basic elsewhere without much of the electronic wizardry we see in today’s cars which without doubt helps the driver pedal quickly, but takes away the “seat of the pants feel” a true driver craves. With the XJ220 a full paid up member of the “widow makers club” it’s just man and machine. No traction control, ABS, PAS or servo-assisted brakes to speak of, so the car commands adult respect to drive. If one is daft enough to demand power from the car mid-corner, it will break traction from those huge Bridgestone 345’s and the car will snap into aggressive oversteer (yep, I’ve been there) and at speed too. However, there is also an engineered tendency into understeer at high speed (easily corrected) despite the enormous downforce the car produces.
Then there’s the enormous size of the car – 7.3” wide and a limousine-like 16ft long, so routes need to be planned away from those pesky 6.6” width restrictors. So embarrassing having to reverse off Albert bridge in rush hour (yep, been that soldier too!) Despite all that, the car is quite easy to drive slowly, the turbo V6 produces enough low down torque to happily pull you along in true Jaguar “grace with pace” style, however this particular car (022) was heavily modified by TWR between 1992 and 2002 into a road-going Le Mans version, so is a little trickier and its bite much deeper. But at speed the car becomes in its element. I was lucky enough to have driven 022 at Milbrook just after the modifications were completed. When Brundle described the car pulling to 200mph like a Golf GTI pulls to 80, he was right. I saw 205mph as we started to run out of road. The TWR modifications, including raising of the limiter to 7900, 100 cell cats, larger turbos and a full race engine producing 726bhp (Le Mans cars were comfortably 800bhp) means 022 has an on-paper speed of nearer 230mph versus 217.3mph (or 223.6 allowing for the 3% banked scrub at Nardo). Not bad for a quarter of a century.
There were 3 cars the XJ220 was pitched against during the time, partly for performance, but also partly for price – the big Jag costing the most at £415,544. They were the F40, Porsche 959 and Bugatti EB110. The F40 and 959 both had a very ‘brand heritage’ style to them – well, it’s safer to make them look similar isn’t it – whereas the EB110 was slightly more controversial with its tiny quarter light windows and chiselled square design. The Jag took another angle, with bold styling, long, low and sleek with an enviably low coefficient drag of just 0.3 despite full use of passing air. The front wings were pressed from sheets of aerospace aluminium, then finished by hand, and the honeycomb aluminium mid-section constructed in one piece – also finished by hand. It’s the attention to detail I love too. Whereas Jaguar could have raided the Ford parts bin [like they did for the indicator stalks and switchgear], for the door handles they crafted their own; aerodynamic and beautifully flush. Given the XJ220 was quicker, faster, larger and more expensive, the car moved the game on an entire collection of steps – McLaren spent millions on the F1 to compete and only just managed it by the end of the decade. So for a car to conquer the top spot as the world’s fastest production car for six years amidst the controversy, it truly deserves the top spot in my eyes.
The XJ220 is finally being recognised for the car it truly is rather than the car they “thought” it should have been. Kids like me grew up idolising the car; we are now lionizing it and hopefully wealthy enough to buy and own one. Justifiably I have seen prices firming for these cars recently, most now around the mid £300K’s in slightly weak GBP terms, but some as high as £500k – famous V5 owners excluded. Given there are only 70 RHD production cars, I would advise these are the ones to own, and in launch silver too. In economic terms £441,544 in 1992 is nearer £881,753 in today’s money inflation adjusted (2.7% avg), so as a new investment it’s not done that well. However if you were one of the lucky speculators to have bought one at or around the lows of £100k over the last 10 years or so, crack open the ’92 Dom Perignon, as the XJ220 is finally on the move. Running a fund investing in exotic cars set to appreciate in value, the XJ220 is firmly on the list of improving assets. F40’s, 959’s and Diablos have all risen nicely, but the same 200mph pedigree XJ220 hasn’t… yet. My advice would be to get the cars inspected if you’re serious about ownership; they are essentially a 25 year old race car. Look for low mileage, long ownership and solid history. MEL took over from TWR in 2003 and then itself went into administration a little after Tom Walkinshaw’s passing, so some histories may have MEL stamps. Go for the launch silver, which still seems to be the most sought after and if possible avoid the black centre BBS rims. JLR has recently opened a Jaguar Classic Works facility with a dedicated XJ220 workshop, so will make owning and maintaining this marvellous car much easier, which will increase its desirability too.
Without a doubt limited availability plays a large part in a car’s appreciation, but that also depends on demand, and that’s where we’ve seen weakness over the last two and a half decades. Initially Jaguar were going to build 350 XJ220’s of which they took 1500 orders on. The hype was also muted once more (forget the loss of the V12 for a moment) as they hiked the price from £360k to £451k, so the love affair with the big cat was short lived. By the end of the launch decade (90’s) one owner, low mileage 220’s traded for less than £100k so the market was plentiful. However now they are in the hands of collectors and enthusiasts, a few have been wrecked, stripped to keep others going after the demise of a real facility to care for the car and I’ve even seen images of an abandoned car in the Qatari desert. Estimates suggest 45-50 of the original run of 70 RHD still exist in running order. Plus there’s now the new dedicated XJ220 team at Jaguar’s new classic facility. Once drooling young boys are now men of the age where they can afford to buy one (assuming they have a garage long enough), and the car is finally being recognised for its engineering genius as a fast, light powerful albeit rather rattly V6 twin turbo. I think we will continue to see the odd car for sale, but the super-car cat is definitely starting to purr in the hands of owners.
Everyone loves the XJ220 whether they know it or not. Everywhere I go with the car from petrol stations to museums, people stop and gasp “that’s an XJ220” – so rarely are they seen, let alone seen moving. For the most part it’s because it’s an old school Jaguar, a car designed during a time of financial boom and excess. The fact some seriously smart engineers decided a blown V6 would outpace a lazy V12 and changed the course of history is part of the reason. It’s from a time when marketing boffins and engineers did battle, and who could argue with the Arrows F1 team? At a recent event the XJ220 was amongst some modern machinery – Porsche 918, Ferrari 458 Speciale A, Lamborghini Aventador to name a few – but it was the XJ220 the crowd loved, young and old, male and female, they all wanted selfies with it when parked outside a famous landmark hotel in Brighton. So it’s no surprise that the WMG entered car won “best presented car award.” To those of us who know what the car is, we love to see, hear and smell them; to those who don’t (of a younger generation) it’s a supercar of confusing identity as other than a spaced out boot badge and a front cat badge, there’s little to link the car to the modern mass-produced JLR Jaguars of today. But it smacks of excess, exuberance on every scale from a period where the unknown territory of 200mph was being translated from race track to road, but of course with a touch of old Blighty inside.
Once the hype of the fastest production car in the world surrounded the halo to Jaguar’s fortunes, but the XJ220 slipped to an unloved disappointment, to a point where one car was dumped in the desert not so long ago. A quarter of a century has passed and renewed enthusiasm for what the car really is, the car has again attracted the attention of investors and collectors, again like 1,500 eager buyers nearly three decades ago tripping over themselves to secure the right car. The undeniable link between the bedroom poster and the cars we buy has become more than evident. It’s not just curiosity, it’s respect for a time, for a team and for a brave product aimed at dethroning the best of them. The XJ220 has stood the test of time well albeit via a stormy and turbulent ride. But now in clear air it’s with some confidence I advise buyers and collectors to find a good car, look at it, cherish it and love it, as the poster cat of the 90’s is just starting to purr again.
The WMG XJ220 will be seen at Silverstone for the annual Silverstone Classic event on Saturday 29th July for an on-circuit celebration of the car’s 25th anniversary.
WMG launched the Collectable Car Fund in December 2016 with solid AUM growth so far. It is the first and only FCA regulated car fund, appealing to high net worth individuals, private banks, wealth managers and family offices.